Damage to gas line caused by construction worker

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A gas line was struck Aug. 22 by a construction worker excavating a trench in the area of Main Street and Centre Avenue, resulting in a temporary loss of service to dozens of local businesses.

The incident occurred within a City of Airdrie roadworks project, according to Airdrie Fire Department (AFD) Deputy Chief Garth Rabel. Contractors had located utilities prior to work commencing, he added.

“It’s in the trench where the City has a contractor in doing an upgrade for the water/sewer service,” he said. “In this aging infrastructure, it appears that there may be some infrastructure that wasn’t located effectively.”

Rabel said the contractors would work “very aggressively” as they continue work on the project to ensure a similar incident doesn’t occur.

Fire crews responded to the location at approximately 3:45 p.m., according to Rabel.

“[The construction worker] was using a large track hoe and inadvertently struck a supply line. They evacuated the area immediately and contacted 911,” he said. “When our crews got there, they maintained and cordoned off the area to pedestrian traffic, primarily, because there’s not that much vehicle traffic in the area.”

The ATCO Gas response team arrived shortly after fire crews, according to Rabel, and shut off gas to nearby buildings. Rabel said approximately 26 to 28 businesses in the area were temporarily without gas service until repairs could be completed.

“There was an extended period of time when those businesses, unfortunately, were without gas service,” he said. “We went door-to-door with ATCO to notify those businesses of what had occurred and what to expect going forward.”

According to Rabel, the incident required a a response from five firefighters and two pieces of firefighting equipment, but fortunately, he said, no one was injured.

He added the incident acts as a good reminder to residents to remember to locate utilities prior to undertaking any kind of excavating work by calling Alberta One Call at 1-800-242-3447.

“The One Call is very, very important to acknowledge where the utilities are, and even when you acknowledge where they are, always be cautious when you’re doing that type of work,” he said. “These folks were being diligent and are now going to be even more diligent, going forward.”

The incident will have an impact on the construction schedule for the water and sewer pipe replacement currently underway from Main Street to Edmonton Trail on Centre Avenue, according to Andrew Dormer, operations engineer with  City of Airdrie Water Services.

“That delayed them for half a day,” he said. “Especially in older areas, they used to bury things we wouldn’t allow today. You can really end up with some delays.”

Dormer said the work is being done to replace an old 200 millimetre (mm) sewer line, due to its deteriorated condition.

“We’re also replacing the water line. Currently, it’s too small – it’s only 150 mm in diameter,” he said. “We’re replacing it with a 300 mm pipe to increase the flow. There’s some capacity issues as you get closer to Edmonton Trail, too.”

The City determined the existing water line was too small to service all the homes and businesses in the area, he added.

Work will be done in a phased process to mitigate the impact to residents and business owners, Dormer said, with temporary lines set up to provide service while the new permanent lines are put in place. Work on each city block takes approximately two and a half weeks, he said.

Detours are in place for pedestrians and road traffic, and Dormer said the project is expected to be completed Oct. 31.

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